Monday, October 17, 2011

My VHS Wishlist

By Ryan Clark

For me, the desire to buy old VHS tapes comes and goes, but there are certain titles that I will always want, and that is because most of them are nearly impossible to find at an affordable price, if at all.  Looking through my wish list, I was surprised at just how many tapes I already acquired from it, so I decided to start over and only focus on the ones that I would practically kill to own.

Make Them Die Slowly (1981) – ThrillerVideo

We'll start off with what is probably my most wanted tape of all-time, the notorious cannibal shocker better known today as Cannibal Ferox.  My nine year-old self was mesmerized by this tape while browsing through the video store.  The giant WARNING on the front of the big box made it look so urgent and scary.  Also, the lack of any pictures on the back cover, a tactic that really got my imagination running, made it even more frightening.  It's tough to find this tape with the box intact for a reasonable price, so who knows when I'll ever get to own it.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) – Wizard Video

This tape must be pretty rare, because I have never seen it in a video store.  Wizard also released a video game based on the film.  As much as I love the Media Entertainment tape of Texas Chainsaw (which I used to own, but I sold it along with most of my other tapes when I got into DVD... damn!), Wizard's cover art is the best.  The black and white and red just looks perfect.

A Virgin Among the Living Dead (1971) – Wizard Video

Did I mention I'm a Wizard Video whore?  Here is yet another of their tapes I would give my right arm to own.  The cover art is beautiful, which means it has absolutely nothing to do with the actual film.  I hated this movie when I first rented it, and I had to rewind the ending three times because I kept falling asleep!  Luckily, I rented (and eventually bought) the Image Entertainment DVD with the original cut of the film, sans Jean Rollin's shitty zombie footage, and found out it's actually a good film if you like Jess Franco.

Breeders (1986) – Wizard Video

This might be my favorite bad movie of all-time.  Dare I say it's funnier than Troll 2Breeders was direct-to-video, but shot on film by porn director Tim Kincaid.  I have the MGM DVD, which is in 16:9 widescreen (!), but for me the big box tape will always be better.

 I Spit on Your Grave (1978) – Wizard Video

I am so in love with Wizard that I've got to own both the original small box and the big box of this title.  They are the only VHS company I can think of that actually started out packaging their tapes in small boxes, only to switch to big boxes and then back again to small ones.  Both are valuable, which means I probably won't be owning them anytime soon.

Zombie (1979) – Wizard Video

Yet another Wizard tape that I'd like to buy two copies of.  Have you noticed I'm obsessed with their packaging?  I would probably buy any Wizard VHS if it was cheap enough, even if the movie didn't interest me.  Fortunately, Zombie is a favorite of mine.  I remember the quality of this tape being really, really bad – it's horribly cropped and murky – and that angered me at the time, but now it's a must-own.

Pink Flamingos (1972) – Wizard Video

I had no idea until I started putting together this post that Wizard released John Waters' infamous cult classic.  Look at that sexy, pink slipcase.  It's another tape I will probably never own because I have a feeling it's extremely rare.

Female Trouble (1974) – Continental?

I'm pretty sure Continental released a big box of this John Waters movie (one of my favorites), but I can't find a picture of it.  If I don't get this tape eventually, I'm gonna knock over a Christmas tree!

Desperate Living (1977) – Continental

I did find a (crappy) picture of the Continental tape for this Waters' film.  I saw it on eBay years ago, but it was too expensive so I didn't buy it.  I'm thinking it hasn't shown up for sale much in the intervening years.  Queen Carlotta's royal proclamation is to send me a copy of this tape.  Damn, damn, dammit!!

Carrie (1976) – Magnetic Video

Common film, rare tape.  Magnetic Video was the first company to release a VHS tape in the United States.  This wasn't it, but it's one of the earlier ones, so it's pretty hard to find.  I want to own this tape mainly because it's the one I rented when I saw the film uncut for the first time (after watching the TV version, and it was probably the first time I ever saw nudity).  I just bought the Beta version of this tape really cheap on eBay, though, and that's close enough for now!  The picture is actually of the Beta tape, but it looks almost exactly like the VHS.

The Body Shop (1973) – Paragon Video Productions

I'd much rather have this VHS than the one called Doctor Gore.  The cover art is classic!  Poorly illustrated, but gruesome.  I really thought this movie was terrible when I rented it -- and it is -- but eventually The Body Shop's low-budget charm put me under its spell.  I'm a proud owner of the Something Weird DVD, but I would love to have this big box tape!

Ms. 45 (1981) – U.S.A. Home Video

This beautiful, blue big box is just begging me to take her home... except she's a bit too costly for my blood.  I don't even own this movie on DVD (it would help if somebody would re-release it uncut on that format in this country), so it hurts doubly that I don't have this tape.

Vengeance (1980) – Magnum Entertainment

I used to see this one in the video store all the time.  I never bothered to rent it, because it was in the action section and I wasn't really into those at the time.  I was able to download the film, also known as Scream for Vengeance, but I haven't seen it yet.  Perhaps I'm afraid that watching the film will tarnish the vivid mental picture that the glorious VHS art conjures.

Bay of Blood (1971) – Gorgon Video

I own Mario Bava's Twitch of the Death Nerve (as I like to call it) on both Blu-ray and DVD, but I'm sure neither could compare with the thrill of owning this tape.  The cover art is so delightfully extreme, and the ugly yellow/green backgrounds are the perfect match.

The Attic (1980) – Monterey Home Video

This is the best picture I could find of the rarest VHS release of this obscure drama-thriller.  I don't feel that bad for not owning it, because I have the original poster with the same artwork.  The film was later released by Key Video in a small box, and those tapes have their own appeal, but I just can't resist the lure of the big box.

Buried Alive (1979) – ThrillerVideo

Another ThrillerVideo tape (along with Make Them Die Slowly) that contained a movie so gruesome Elvira refused to host it.  They really should have boasted that on the cover, but the reappearance of the giant WARNING does the job just fine.  The film is actually Joe D'Amato's Beyond the Darkness (a masterpiece of violent Euro sleaze that I reviewed here), but when you're a VHS collector, or even just a lover of exploitation films, you get used to these retitlings.

7 Doors of Death (1981) – ThrillerVideo

Again with the retitlings.  Lucio Fulci's The Beyond is even more nonsensical – if that's possible – in its U.S. theatrical cut.  This is the way people saw the film until Grindhouse Releasing restored the original version and released it to theaters in 1998 and then to DVD.  I've never come across this tape in a video store, but I would certainly buy it for the right price.

Savage Intruder (1970) – Unicorn Video

I haven't seen this movie (I did download it under the title Hollywood Horror House, but I have not watched it), but I want this tape for the cover art alone.  It kind of reminds me of the artwork for Doctor Gore and Camp Video's VHS of The Thrill Killers (see below).  It's supposed to be one of the rarest tapes around, so I don't think I will ever be lucky enough to own it.  Today, it's hard to imagine video stores displaying artwork like this out in the open, but they did.  Don't be misled, though.  The movie itself is supposed to be a Baby Jane-esque thriller starring Miriam Hopkins in her last role, and it's probably not nearly as gory as the cover suggests.

The Thrill Killers (1964) – Camp Video

I rented this tape as a kid because of the extreme cover.  I actually liked the film, and I still do.  It's probably Ray Dennis Steckler's most accomplished feature, and it is pretty effective for the most part.  Again, not as gory as the cover art, but, save for H.G. Lewis, this was pretty strong stuff for 1964 film.  The DVD is well worth owning.  I'd love to have the tape for old time's sake, but it's pretty hard to come by.

The Prowler (1981) – VCII 

Again, sorry for the low quality picture, but I wanted to show the big box version of the VCII tape I rented as a kid.  The small box is attractive and much more common, but the big box is really striking.  The label on the tape itself is a giant sticker with the cover art on it!  That alone makes this a must-own.  I will never forget watching The Prowler for the first time and how scary and atmospheric it was.  I own the Blu-ray now, and the atmosphere holds up (and the murder scenes are the best out of any slasher film), but now I find it somewhat boring.  Still, there's something about this film that draws me to it.  I suspect a lot of that has to do with renting this glorious tape.

Video Violence Part 2: The Exploitation! (1987) – Camp Video

The original Video Violence was my first experience with shot on video horror, and I'd never seen anything like it before.  It actually disturbed me, even though it was cheesy and poorly acted, because it also seemed kind of real.  When I finally got the chance to rent the sequel, after talking my mom into taking us the next town over to rent a garbage bag full of tapes, I was disappointed.  Video Violence 2 is not at all like the first film.  It's more clever, but I didn't realize that at the time.  I have the DVD of both films, but holding the VHS in my hands would bring back memories.  The cover art is great!

House on the Edge of the Park (1980) – Vestron Video

I already wrote about my love for this film in a previous entry, but I never once ran across this tape in a video store.  The artwork, which is the same as the DVD, is so wonderful that I wouldn't mind owning a copy.  As with many of these types of films (Sleepaway Camp immediately comes to mind), there are no pictures from the movie on the back cover, which used to creep me out.

Last House on the Left (1972) – Vestron Video

I already own the R-rated VHS that Vestron put out before, which I think is less common to find, but this is the one I rented when I first saw the movie a long time ago.  Watching it was a truly memorable experience, because I'm not sure I'd ever seen such a gritty and raw film, except perhaps The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.  The Blu-ray is considerably sharper (at least as sharp as Last House can get) but VHS is the best way to watch this kind of film.  I love the orange spine and back cover with the blurry picture of Jeramie Rain looking ferocious.

The Mutilator (1985) - Vestron Video

I could kick myself for selling this tape when I first got into DVD, because now it's worth a bit of money.  I didn't like the film then, and I'm still not sure, but, as with The Prowler, there is something that draws you to it.  The gore is pretty effective, too.  Vestron released The Mutilator in Unrated and R-rated versions, but the Unrated tape is the only one for me.

Blood Couple (1973) – Video Gems

I didn't actually see this film until a couple of years ago under its original title Ganja & Hess.  I wasn't sure how I felt about it at first, but the haunting atmosphere, music, and performances grabbed me, and I couldn't stop thinking about the film after it was over.  Blood Couple is a different, and supposedly inferior, edit.  I saw the tape for sale years ago, but never bothered to pick it up.  If I knew then what I know now!  I'd also like to buy the DVD, but it is out of print and worth a lot of money.  Damn!

Andy Warhol's Frankenstein (1973) – Video Gems
Andy Warhol's Dracula (1974) – Video Gems

I've never seen either of these tapes around, but the cover art is gorgeous.  Renting Andy Warhol's Frankenstein as a kid was another memorable experience, even though I was definitely too young to watch it.  I hated it at the time because of the abundant sex (yeah, I was a weird kid).  I didn't see Dracula until I was in high school, and I didn't care for it either.  Now they're two of my all-time favorites.  Go figure!

Prom Night (1980) – MCA and Virgin Vision

I love this movie so much that I've just got to have both tapes.  The MCA VHS is pretty rare.  I saw it for sale once in Pittsburgh, but I didn't buy it because the box was cut and it was kinda pricey.  I hate cut boxes, and I refuse to buy tapes in that condition unless they are practically given away for free.  The Virgin Vision tape is more common, and that's the one I rented the first time I saw the film.  The decapitated head on the back cover really scared me!

Day of the Maniac (1974) – Super Video

This is another tape that I've never seen around, but the film, better known as All the Colors of the Dark starring the stunning cult actress Edwige Fenech, is one of my favorite gialli.  The cover art is wonderfully misleading, making it look like a zombie film!

The Gruesome Twosome (1967) – Midnight Video
The Wizard of Gore (1970) – Midnight Video  
The Gore Gore Girls (1974) – Midnight Video

These are three of H.G. Lewis' best films (The Gore Gore Girls being my personal favorite) and the big box tapes are very valuable because of the extraordinary artwork.  I believe Continental also put out The Wizard of Gore.   

I found the pictures for this post from various websites, including the wonderful Critical Condition and Basement of Ghoulish Decadence.  Oh, and if anyone wants to sell me these tapes, by all means contact me.


  1. This is tremendous! It totally took me back to the days when I would peruse all these boxes back at the video store. I picked up a couple over the years and I regret letting some go. LOVE THIS!

  2. Thank you! That's just the effect I was aiming for.

  3. The store where I work has a copy of the Continental big-box of DESPERATE LIVING for sale! It's yours if you want to buy it.

    I work at Thomas Video in Royal Oak, Michigan (one of the oldest video stores in the world), and we still have a HUGE VHS stock, for rent and sale.

    The good news is that the box is uncut, and aside from some sun fading and edgewear, is in pretty good shape. The bad news (and I realize this is pretty bad news) is that the box does not contain the original Continental tape... it contains the subsequent New Line Video reprinting. It's not our fault- it was like that when we got it, in a box of giveaway tapes (!) from a customer.
    If the switched tape is a deal-breaker, I'm very sorry, but if the uncut big-box is what you need, feel free to call the store and we can arrange a purchase. It's priced at $29.99- as you said, that release is ridiculously rare (this is the first time I've ever actually seen one), so if it had the original tape it would undoubtedly be worth a lot more.

    We also have that USA MS. 45 big-box and the uncut Vestron release of LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT for rent, but for the right price we'd probably be willing to sell them. We don't have the others on the list, but we are always getting more in, so they could always turn up.

    If you go on our Facebook page, you can see a photo of the actual DESPERATE LIVING big-box- it was our featured collectors' item of the week a couple weeks ago. You'll find it eight posts down the page.

    Our phone number is (248) 280-2833, and we are open noon-midnight (EST) every day. Feel free to call us if you're interested in buying any of these! We'll ship them to you if you buy.

  4. Thanks for the offer, Thomas Video! I can't afford to pay that much for a tape, but maybe somebody who can will see this and buy it from you. :)

  5. This is a beautiful post. It brought back so many great memories. I HAVE SEEN The Continental FEMALE TROUBLE box! It is the first one that I rented! I've also seen the Wizard TEXAS CHAINSAW! At various points I had the opportunities to buy the uncut LAST HOUSE (BRAND NEW!) and The Wizard PINK FLAMINGOS and *because I was insane* I didn't buy them (I didn't want LAST HOUSE in my home because it was too traumatic and I thought that the tape contained evil. I still actually sort of feel that way, although I own the DVD). The MCA PROM NIGHT is the first one I rented, and that--along with the Media HALLOWEEN and the UA CARRIE that you posted--it might be the horror VHS cover to which I have the most profound emotional attachment. That cover of CARRIE is my favorite US CARRIE art--I like it even more than the original poster.

  6. Thanks, Ben! I looove the Media "Halloween" tape – that one I *do* own!